Monday, May 30, 2011

Simulated Congressional Hearing: Performance Assessment in Action

This past Thursday, I had the privilege of serving as a judge for the Simulated Congressional Hearing that took place at Running Brook Elementary School. It was such a great day! I want to thank Mr. Todd for inviting me to participate in this wonderful program.

What is a Simulated Congressional Hearing? It is a Performance Assessment for upper elementary students to show their knowledge about the U.S. Constitution that has been created by the Center for Civic Education. The Center for Civic Education is a nonpartisan educational corporation dedicated to promoting an enlightened and responsible citizenry committed to democratic principles.

At Running Brook Elementary, all of the 5th graders participated in a simulated congressional hearing as the culminating activity for the We the People program after they had studied the U.S. Constitution in social studies this year. The entire class, working in cooperative teams, prepared and presented statements before a panel of community representatives who acted as congressional committee members. Students served as experts on the U.S. Constitution and answered questions posed by the committee members. The format provided students an opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of constitutional principles while providing teachers an excellent means of assessing performance. Click here to find out more about the program:

All of the judges were so impressed by the preparation and knowledge of the students. It was great to hear students explaining concepts like "separation of powers", "judicial review", "how a bill becomes a law" and "balance of powers". I know all of the guest judges were very impressed!

I am thrilled that all of these 5th graders will be attending Wilde Lake Middle School next year! Congratulations to all of the students and the teachers who did such an outstanding job organizing this important event.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

8th Graders Walk for Kay!

This past Sunday, several WLMS students walked for Kay at the annual Great Strides walkathon to benefit research to help find a cure for Cystic Fibrosis. It was a great event for such a worthy cause. Kay is an 8th grader at WLMS who has CF. For the first time this year, he shared with his friends that he has CF and invited them to the

walkathon. Along with Kaylin's friends and family, Ms. Lebowitz, Ms. Crendan, and me and my two kids took part in the event.
Congratulations to the was a great event! I sure hope the researchers continue to make Great Strides in finding a cure for this terrible disease.

If you would like to make a donation, please click here:

To find out more about CF, click here:

Saturday, May 21, 2011

On the Way to the Bay: An Environmental Trip for WLMS 7th Graders

This past week, 7th graders from our school traveled to historic Mt. Pleasant farm and participated in a Howard County Conservancy program entitled On the Way to the Bay. Our students walked across the grasslands of the farm, conducted a stream study, identified native Howard County trees, investigated garden habitats, and viewed native critters including the resident Barred Owl, Ranger.

The Howard County Conservancy’s programs are designed to educate students about nature and the environment through the use of hands on learning experiences such as restoration projects, demonstrations, and service learning opportunities. Programs are aligned with Howard County Public School curriculum to provide an outdoor extension of classroom learning.  

Despite the heavy rain, our students, staff and parents had a wonderful experience. When our students returned to the school, they were so excited to share what they had learned and how they braved the elements to participate in the program.

I want to thank Ann Strozyk, Environmental Education Director, for sending the following email to our staff;

I just needed to share with you that when all the volunteers came in at the end of the day, we had a nice
conversation. We all agree that we have never had a group of students here more engaged and enthusiastic.
Even some of the teachers were in the stream! 

We are so glad you came despite the impending rain! We are looking forward to another great day with
you tomorrow.
As you can imagine, I am a very proud principal! Our seventh graders are awesome...way to go! I also want to thank Ms. Norato for organizing this trip and the staff members and parents who chaperoned this educational experience. Finally, a huge thank you goes to the amazing staff and volunteers at the Howard County Conservancy...we look forward to returning next year!

For more information about the Conservancy, please click here:

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Caught in the Middle...What About You?

Where do you turn to get professional development as a principal?

While attending the Maryland Association of Elementary School Principal's conference this past weekend, I was asked to participate in a forum to discuss what the Maryland Association of Elementary School Principal's organization could do to attract more middle level principals to join. I was intrigued by this question and it made me think about which organizations I belong to and what benefits do they provide for me as middle school principal. This question is especially important as professional development funds shrink for administrators, but the demand for professional growth and continuing learning increases.

So, I started by listing the national organizations I belong to and reviewed how much support they provide for me as a veteran middle school principal. Here is my list:
  • National Middle School Association (Great research, but seems more teacher oriented)
  • National Association of Secondary School Principals (Great magazine for middle level leaders, but very high school oriented)
  • National Association of Elementary School Principals (The name says it all...)
  • International Society for Technology in Education (Love this organization, but it is limited to the implementation/use of  technology)
  • Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development (Great publications, but very curricular based)
All of these organizations leave me wanting more. Am I missing any organizations that a middle school principal should belong to? I feel caught in the middle where no professional organization truly serves me and my needs for professional growth and development.

So, what organizations do you belong to and more importantly, which ones give you the most bang for your buck?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Middle School Readiness for Our Changing Middle Schools

This past weekend, I had the privilege of attending the Maryland Association of Elementary School Principal's Conference in Ocean City, Maryland. I was invited to be a part of a panel to share best practices for helping elementary school students transition successfully to the middle level.The panel was facilitated by Paul Dunford, MSDE Director for Cross-Divisional Initiatives. I was joined on the panel by Robert Motley, Principal of Patuxent Valley Middle and Neal Case, Principal of Gov. Thomas Johnson Middle.

We each shared what our schools do to help students, staff and parents transition from one level to the next. This topic is critical because the transition from elementary school to the middle level is marked by several changes in educational expectations and practices. In most elementary schools, children are taught in self-contained classrooms with a familiar set of peers and one or two teachers. Once students reach middle schools, however, they must interact with more peers, more teachers, and with intensified expectations for both performance and individual responsibility. Social, developmental, and academic experiences are affected, requiring them to adjust to what they see as new settings, structures, and expectations. All of this comes at a time when they are also experiencing a host of changes associated with the transition from childhood to adolescence. (Source NMSA's Supporting Students in Their Transition to Middle School position paper)

Some of the ideas we shared were:

School leaders should:
  • Make the planning, implementation, and evaluation of transition activities an annual focus, beginning in the intermediate grades of the elementary school.
  • Begin as early as grade five to create an environment that promotes a confident transition from a self-contained classroom structure to the larger team structure of the middle school.
  • Encourage collaboration among elementary and middle schools and teachers, students, and parents.
  • Provide comprehensive orientation programs for teachers, students and families, including older siblings, who strongly influence attitudes and perceptions of transitioning students.
  • Become knowledgeable about the needs and concerns of young adolescents in transition.
  • Support teachers' efforts to address students' social, developmental, and academic needs.
  • Provide leadership in creating a climate that values and supports effective home/school communications.
Teachers and Counselors should:
  • Engage in collaborative planning with their counterparts at the elementary and middle levels to ensure a smooth academic transition that recognizes and accommodates variations in curricula across feeder schools.
  • Become knowledgeable about the needs and concerns of young adolescents in transition.
  • Keep parents informed, help them become skilled in dealing with issues related to transition, and welcome their participation in their children's education.
  • Provide counseling at both the elementary and middle levels to address transition concerns and assure students of the availability of ongoing support.
  • Provide programs, activities, and curricula to help students understand and cope successfully with the challenges of transition.
  • Use a variety of developmentally appropriate instructional practices that will enable each child to experience academic success.
  • Employ strategies such as cooperative learning that provide opportunities for peer interaction.
  • Consider organizational structures such as team teaching that ensure teachers have meaningful knowledge and understanding of each child.
Parents should:
  • Provide young children with manageable tasks that will help them develop organizational skills and responsibility.
  • Encourage children to try new things and to regard failure as a necessary part of learning and growing.
  • Become knowledgeable about the needs and concerns of young adolescents in transition.
  • Help children turn their anxieties into positive action by learning about school rules, schedules, locker procedures and the availability of counseling.
  • Attend school functions and stay involved in children's schooling.
  • Support children in their efforts to become independent.
  • Maintain strong family connections with young adolescents.
  • Be alert to signs of depression or anxiety in their children and seek help. (Source NMSA's Supporting Students in Their Transition to Middle School position paper)
I really enjoyed being able to participate on this panel and work with Paul, Robert and Neal. I also enjoyed meeting so many talented principals from around the state. I want to thank Debbie Drown, Executive Director of the Maryland Association of Elementary School Principals, for inviting me to attend this conference. 

For more information about the transition process to middle school, please visit this NMSA link

Students Shine at GT Enrichment Fair

This past Thursday evening, WLMS was proud to showcase the talents of many of our students and the work they have completed this year. Several students shared poems they had written during their participation in the Writer's Guild, our drama team performed a song from Romeo and Harriett and several students presented research projects they have been working on this year. In addition, our Jazz Band performed and our debate team demonstrated their skills.

I want to thank our incredible GT Resource Teacher, Ms. Motaung, for doing such a great job organizing this event for our school. I also appreciate all of the students, parents and friends of WLMS who came to the school to see the amazing work and performances of our students!

Monday, May 9, 2011

South Korean Official Advises Caution in Following His Country's Model

A former top education official in academically high-flying South Korea has warned against U.S. officials attempting to copy his nation's approach, saying it has grown too test-centered and often detracts from students' love of learning.

Byong Man Ahn, the former minister of education, science, and technology in South Korea, said government officials in his country are attempting to scale back the heavy test emphasis and nurture broader student skills, a step some of the United States' other foreign competitors also have taken.
Mr. Ahn made his remarks during a keynote address Friday at the annual meeting of the Association for Education Finance and Policy, in Seattle.

To read more:
South Korean Official Advises Caution in Following His Country's Model

Thanks Sunghwa for sharing this with me.

Sunday, May 8, 2011


Music and Lyrics by  Jason Robert Brown
Book by  Dan Elish and Robert Horn

A grown-up story about growing up!

When his parents get divorced and he's forced to move from New York to a small town in Indiana, Evan Goldman just wants to make friends and survive the school year. Easier said than done.

The star quarterback is threatening to ruin his life and his only friend, Patrice, won't talk to him. The school freak sees an opportunity for blackmail and someone is spreading the nastiest rumors.

With an unforgettable rock score from Tony Award-winning composer Jason Robert Brown, 13 is a hilarious, high-energy musical for all ages about discovering that cool is where you find it, and sometimes where you least expect it.  (Source:

In this Broadway musical , there is a great ballad entitled "What It Means to be a Friend" that captures the emotions that many middle schoolers feel when trying to navigate the complexities of friendship. Below, my daughter performs the song at her middle school talent show! I am a very proud father... ; )

Happy Mother's Day!

I want to wish all the moms out there the very best Mother's Day! I especially want to thank my mom for helping me all these years and to my wife for being such an awesome mother to my two wonderful kids!

In fact, I hate to brag too much, but I feel this is wife is the subject of a movie that will be released soon. Here is the official Hollywood trailer that was created recently. Enjoy!

Happy Mother's Day!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Great Strides Cystic Fibrosis Walk on May 22

Our 8th grade team will be participating in the Great Strides Cystic Fibrosis Walk that will be held on May 22nd at Rockburn Park here in Howard County, Maryland. We are inviting all families to join us as we show our support for one of our 8th graders who has Cystic Fibrosis. If you would like to register or donate to "4 Kay's Healing", click on the link below to go to Katrina’s Homepage: We hope you can join us!
What is Cystic Fibrosis?
Cystic fibrosis is an inherited chronic disease that affects the lungs and digestive system of about 30,000 children and adults in the United States (70,000 worldwide). A defective gene and its protein product cause the body to produce unusually thick, sticky mucus that:
  • clogs the lungs and leads to life-threatening lung infections; and
  • obstructs the pancreas and stops natural enzymes from helping the body break down and absorb food.
In the 1950s, few children with cystic fibrosis lived to attend elementary school. Today, advances in research and medical treatments have further enhanced and extended life for children and adults with CF. Many people with the disease can now expect to live into their 30s, 40s and beyond. (Source: Cystic Fibrosis Website) For more information, click here:

Below are some pictures of students creating posters advertising this event here at our school and in our community. 



Thanks Brett for the photos!

Performing Arts Booster's Fundraiser at Standford Grill

This past Sunday, the WLMS Performing Arts Boosters Club host a fundraiser at the Standford Grill in Columbia. The owners of the restaurant agreed to donate 10% of the proceeds from their jazz brunch time. All of the money raised will go towards purchasing instruments and other supplies needed to support our band, orchestra, choir and drama programs.

While I am not an official food critic, I am an accomplished food eater...and as such, I want to rave about the food my son and I ate at the Grill. I would recommend going to this restaurant if you happen to be in the Columbia area! Here is a link to the restaurant:

I want to thank the the Standford Grill management and 
our boosters for helping our school! 
You are awesome!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Maryland Day!

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of taking my son Ben to the University of Maryland's open house - fondly known as Maryland Day! Ben and I volunteered to help give out prizes at the College of Education Tent and help run the Terp Taught Trivia game.

During the event, two popular children’s book authors took part in the Maryland Day festivities - Alumnus Jeff Kinney, author of the popular series Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Laura Duksta who has developed a very successful school program "Self-Esteem through Love: Empowering Our Children to Shine!" Both shared insights into their success and how they enjoy helping students!

It was a great day!

Calling all U. of Md. College of Education graduates...we are looking to increase the number of Alumni who participate in activities like this one, as well as other opportunities to help current College of Education students. Please think about joining the Alumni Association and contacting me if you have an interest in getting involved. This month, I will become President of the College of Education Alumni Association Board. Your support is needed and appreciated!

To join the University of Maryland's Alumni Association:

8th Graders Explore Career Opportunities

On Friday, we held a Career Expo for our 8h grade students.  Parents and other members of our community came to our school and share information about the careers they have chosen. It was a wonderful morning highlighted by an all-star group of professional musicians who performed for our students.

Other professions that were represented included:

Industrial Engineer & Software Engineer
Technical Translator (Chinese & Japanese)   
Aerospace Engineer
Howard County Police Officer    
Technical Director/Homeland Security 
Senior Chief Petty Officer/US Navy       
Jazz Musicians    
Personal Trainer 

It was so great to hear so many students talking about all of the new things they had learned based on the information they heard on Friday morning. I want to send my thanks to Ms. Berla for doing such an outstanding job organizing this event and all of Career Expo speakers! You all Rock!